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How Alexis Ohanian Built a Front Page of the Internet (inc.com)
148 points by gatsby on May 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

What the front page of the internet looks like today:

  * Image with overlayed snarky text
  * Another image
  * Another image...
  * The Daily Show clip
  * Another image
  * Another image
  * News article about Julian Assange
  * Another image
  * News article about guy doing something strange (which is actually really old)
  * Reddit question thread about Tarantino films
  * Youtube clip
  * "Ask Me Anything" request thread
  * Story on mobile technology
  * Reddit question thread about 'fan theories'
  * Article about astronomy
  * Youtube clip
  * Reddit 'arbitrary gift day' thread
  * Another image
  * Another image
  * Another image
  * Another image
  * Story about finding genetic defects
  * News article about political race
  * Another image
  * Another image
Personally, I think there's something wrong with you if you don't find that list at least a little depressing.

You're looking at r/all. For comparison, here's what my reddit front page looks like:

  * Ketamine Improves Bipolar Depression Within Minutes
  * -2000 Lines of Code
  * Fedora 17 Boot Optimization (from 15 to 2.5 seconds)
  * Awesome cut away showing the inner working of a Sauber
  * lcamtuf: Yes, you can have fun with downloads
  * Favorite CS related quotes from professors (or coworkers)?
  * Scrivener and Building a Better Book
  * ECMAScript 5.1 Specification Now Officially Available in HTML
  * Want to help make Linux Tycoon and Illumination Software Creator (and more) go GPL? Now's your chance.
  * org-mode and exporting to html
  * Calligra 2.4.2 Released
  * With your help, we're hoping to revive /r/promptoftheday - show your support!
  * New release of fortune_vimtips plugin.
  * Why GNU/Linux for Android is the most important Linux project today
  * Installing Postgresql for use with Rails 3.x using Homebrew on Mac OS X Lion
  * Best way to learn Scheme?
  * 10 Reasons You Should Skip the Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks Instead
  * What's new in Fedora 17
  * Simple example: Haskell vs. Go
  * centos 6.2 stuck on boot with gray bar at bottom of screen.
  * System Programming: CreateRemoteThread. Bypass Windows 7 Session Separation
  * [Access]Query does not update all rows
  * Astronomers have found the best evidence yet that gamma-ray
    jets recently streamed from the supermassive black hole at the
     heart of the Milky Way.
  * Can we talk about editors?

I want this. This is awesome. Reddit always seems gross from my perspective as an outsider. I want good quality stuff like that.

I have to be logged in to get that?

You don't have to, you can chain subreddits and bookmark that, e.g.:


thank you!

mind to share your subreddits?

You can log in and customize it. The default set of subreddits is bound to be low-quality.

I cannot upvote this enough. Thanks.

edit, with bonus explanation! We need to do a better job helping new(and old) redditors realize the thousands of communities they could be joining for a diverse blend of content that interests them. When Steve and I started reddit, we had no categories because it was simple -- and Steve loves simple. Now that we've got scores of vibrant communities discussing links about things ranging from cute animal photos (/r/aww) to philosophy (/r/philosophy) and many things in between, it's up to us to build a more intuitive UX that guides users to them and helps them assemble a personalized front page.

Communities are a great start, but I feel like reddit is missing out on central observations about how things get upvoted: Things that you can upvote quickly get upvoted more.

Suppose there are two links of equal quality. (Whatever that means.) One is a photograph that I can digest in 10 seconds of wow. One is an article that I can read in half an hour of wow.

The photograph I upvote immediately because I'm done and move on. The article I read for half an hour, return to my redditing shell shocked and amazed, and upvote.

Now if something has to get a high volume of upvotes quickly to make it to the front page and linger, you're going to see a lot of quick content, and not a lot of slow content, because the click upvote cycle is just faster.

This feels like a social problem, but it's actual a technical problem. Long stuff gets upvotes slower than short stuff, and nothing in the system accounts for that. The social problem emerges from the technical problem.

Actually high effort posts don't get upvotes because most redditors don't give a shit.

It's funny, because your "Announce your vote to the world" comment (ostensibly) wouldn't be welcome on Reddit: http://code.reddit.com/wiki/help/reddiquette

(No offense intended, I just thought it was hilarious in the context of this conversation. Maybe you meant it as a joke...)

Tongue firmly in cheek :) btw, I'd love to see a HN etiquette guide.

edit: touche! thanks, agscala http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Nor would it be welcome on HN. It's courtesy not to post about your votes, rather letting them speak for themselves.

I've since added a bonus explanation for just why I concurred with the parent.

> We need to do a better job helping new(and old) redditors realize the thousands of communities they could be joining for a diverse blend of content that interests them.

As a long-time redditor and sometimes-user of "the other guys" (Fark, Slashdot, Digg), I do have some suggestions. I'm fully aware that none of these could "just happen" and the team may have discussed and discounted these ideas many times, but for the purpose of starting a discussion here on HN:

- Some subreddits seem more like "tags" than communities. /r/pics is a perfect example. So is /r/nsfw. These seem more like attributes of a post. I think reddit could be a little more orthogonal with these types of things. It would be nice to create a post and check (or have reddit detect automatically) the "pic" checkbox. Then you'd still need to pick a subreddit for the post to go, but hopefully things would be more targeted than just to say it's a picture. This is already in place for NSFW, and I know people have been asking for NSFL as well. Making this attribute system more generic and allowing "virtual" or "filtered" subreddits to be generated from them would be cool. The main point of this suggestion isn't to help users discover new communities, but to modify the signal-to-noise ratio of existing ones (given that what counts as "signal" is subjective).

- Crossposting is common and the [X-Post from /r/foo] notation has become de facto. It might be nice if posts could belong to more than one subreddit. You could add new subreddits to an existing post if someone from that subreddit saw a post it thought might be a good fit for it. Additionally, if someone found the post while "in" a particular subreddit, an additional type of comment flair could indicate which subreddit he or she was commenting from in a "multi-homed" post. This would help people in larger subreddits discover smaller ones.

- Many people have made "reddit guide" sites that attempt to list subreddits and help people find new ones. It would be nice if there was an official reddit guide that used, as much as possible, the metadata for each subreddit.

- Building on the previous idea, you could "tag" subreddits with optional but standardized metadata. I can see things like "appropriate age range", "predominant gender", "political affiliation", "religious affiliation", "special interest topic", and so forth. If subreddits filled these in, you could actually offer a "questionnaire" that users could fill out. The output of this would be a list of subreddits the user might like (and ones they might hate!). EDIT: Or just use it to make a recommendation system based on the subreddits they already have subscribed, the ones they visit most, the ones with posts they comment on most, and so on.

A related post recently came on reddit about subreddit forking. While not directly related to your suggestions, it may help in providing another framework on how reddit operates.

Let me see if I have it ... here: http://www.reddit.com/r/TheoryOfReddit/comments/shv9y/how_wo...

An observation made is that after sub reddits hit a certain mark, say 16000, they go to crap - at which point the subreddit goes through a cycle of subreddit drama and then splits off.

The post above is a great description of the process, filled with history to back it up.

r/pics serves as a pit to absorb a lot of the Karma whoring, and then branch people off to other sub reddits where more targeted communities exist to either absorb more Karma whoring, or to create a place with high a S/N ratio.

The r/earthporn and other sfwporn branches, as well as /specart, imaginary creatures and other picture related sites are forks which help maintain the holy SNR.

r/adviceanimals for example though was meant to reduce 'noise' (meme spam) in its parent (r/pics) and ended up being its own subreddit.

Making it easier to discover, will likely hasten the degradation of SNR - as it stands now, people discovery is easy, and primarily requires inclination, allowing the communities to self select.

I think that reddit needs SUPER-REDDITS - sub-reddit grouping.

I want to be able to categorize large swaths of reddit into variou buckets and see that page.

e.g. have a technology super-reddit, which includes /r/technology, /r/gadgets, /r/programming, etc.. etc.. etc..

And things like F712U, aww, pics, etc can be in other categories and I can ignore them.

Right now there are so many /r/ that we need some larger buckets to be able to consume them better.

You can group subreddits together with a + symbol between them - e.g. reddit.com/r/technology+gadgets+programming

I know, but I think that reddit still needs an actual super-reddit bucket rather than a cumbersome URL hack.

How would buckets work?

From what I understand, buckets would be counter to what sub-reddit splitting is trying to achieve.

For example: r/adviceanimals split from r/pics, this helped drive the noise/karma whoring to advice animals and reduced all meme related spam to that forum. Now today r/adviceanimals is going through its own drama and banning other types of posts which it considers noise.

How would you want to see that tied together?

Does weighting of posts (only in hot?) take into account the amount of 'spent' upvotes vs the size of the overall subreddit?

I do notice that a the 'top' ranking seems to fail when I am subscribed to a number of small subreddits and a few bigger ones. The smaller subreddits then are drowned out by the bigger ones which is the exact opposite of what I want.

I also think grouping can be taken further (/r/a+b+c) as it is a great but lesser known feature.

They changed the handling of multi reddits to use normalized hot sort last month: http://www.reddit.com/r/changelog/comments/s79pl/reddit_chan...

This is very true, by some odd fate of chance... google searches... I ended up finding a great source of information for three.js on Reddit and that made me look to it for other stuff that I am also interested in. That little treasure made me look more in depth, wish I had found what is "beneath" sooner actually. So, congrats on your great content linker site, hope you keep improving it and long live.

The idea that the default is supposed to be low-quality is depressing.

The idea is that you can make it "your" front page of the internet with just the topics that interest you. If you go by the default it's got the most mass market appeal because of popularity but if you're someone who reads hackers news that is not what you want. So customize it.

The internet has become popular and just like pop music it will appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Reddit isn't required to make "your" front page. Personally... I just go into my browser settings and change it to whatever website I want.

More seriously, iGoogle is pretty good after being customized. I personally have email, calendar, and reader placed prominently (among others). I'd really like a hackernews synopsis too, perhaps something like hckrnews: http://hckrnews.com/

If you go by the default it's got the most mass market appeal

Well, not really "mass market" appeal, just appeal to the incredibly narrow and apparently homogeneous subslice of the world's population that fits into the reddit demographic.

If you're not aged 15-25, college-educated (or college-bound), left-wing, atheist, obsessively interested in every one of the typical geeky pursuits, and already intimately familiar with every one of several hundred reddit memes and running jokes, you're gonna have a bad time.

I'm not sure how many people there are among the world's seven billion people who fit into all those categories, but they all already have reddit accounts.

Don't forget overwhelmingly male.

Also, I've noticed anecdotally that the average age on Reddit seems to have dropped over the past couple years. It used to be early 20s, but now I'm seeing tons of comments from high school kids and younger whenever I dare step out of the few subreddits I still bother to read.

I won't even get into Reddit's more serious developing issues like the explosion of casual racism.

I won't even get into Reddit's more serious developing issues like the explosion of casual racism.

Heh. I call it "Family Guy Racism". Or the "it's okay, I voted for Obama" syndrome.

...do you actually use reddit, or is this just something you believe?

As someone who only really fits one of your criteria (college education), I evidently don't exist, as I have a good experience on reddit. They have large communities for not-stereotypical-geekery like fitness[1], martial arts[2], and home brewing[3].

Yes, the uncustomized "homepage of the internet" is a giant wad of time-wasting activity. To be honest, that's what the internet is to many people, especially during their work day.

[1] http://reddit.com/r/fitness [2] http://reddit.com/r/martialarts [3] http://reddit.com/r/homebrewing

not-stereotypical-geekery like ... martial arts[2]


...is this what passes for "discussion" on HN?

This is also IMHO why the whole 'karma' thing doesn't work. It's a measure of how much time you waste on the website, rather than any actual merit.

The people who waste the most time upvoting, commenting, etc, are the ones who decide the editorial. So you end up with a front page comprised of stories that people who like wasting their time online agree with.

Causation is the other way around. The default(s) will become lower quality, as a direct result of the additional, unfiltered attention. They will get firehosed with a larger audience, and the number of participants will grow in a way not compatible with maintaining a consistent community or personality. Additionally, the switch in community growth from a "pull" model (I'm interested enough in X to actively search for communities about X on the internet) to a "push" model (X was pushed in my face, and I care enough to respond) will tend to dilute the focus and quality of the community.

The idea that any single default can possibly be considered high quality for tens of millions of users is unrealistic. That's like going to a grocery store, asking for a "default shopping cart," and hoping its contents will be suitable for you.

The default shopping cart is probably much closer to my taste than default reading material would be.

Although, now I come to think of it, for years we did have default reading material, it was called a mass-market newspaper, and it wasn't all that bad. Newspapers are very readable and fairly sensible, content-wise, compared to something like reddit, because they're carefully designed by a small group of people to appeal to a broad cross-section, whereas the dynamics of social news sites tend to push shiny junk to the top.

A newspaper is like a default shopping cart which contains meat, vegetables, eggs, milk, bread, and rice. Not all of it is to everyone's taste, but if it arrived at my door every week I wouldn't die of malnutrition. Reddit is like a default shopping cart constructed by polling a thousand teenagers on their favourite foods; it contains twinkies, cognac, Junior Mints, bacon, Twizzlers and beer.

> it was called a mass-market newspaper, and it wasn't all that bad.

I actually doubt that. Sure, there were social advantages to having a smaller body of reading material that most literate people had read. But the Internet allows us to do two different but important things: truly democratize editorship (like reddit), and enable niche editors to easily distribute their content (like slashdot, slashfilm, or techcrunch).

Doesn't stop the fact that I'd get more satisfaction out of reading the New York Times (or even the New York Post) than browsing the front page of reddit.

Oh look, a picture of a velociraptor with a caption. And someone's cat. A terribly-drawn cartoon about why console gaming is better than PC gaming. Someone else's cat. Another cat. I'VE SEEN CATS BEFORE, PEOPLE!

Well, at least know its name if you're going to be depressed by it:


There is a reason that empty content (Reality TV anyone?) is very popular. People seem to really like it.

There are a great many subreddits with fantastic discussions and information; most people don't seem to want to be bothered to learn anything though.

I wouldn't so much say the default is supposed to be low quality so much as the less interesting/technically savvy people don't change the defaults so those are the reddits they read/post to, leading to clutter.

I was getting fed-up with Reddit but my front page (and Reddit experience in general) improved vastly after taking some suggestions from a user a few weeks ago [1]. It's actually a good source for interesting news now.

[1] http://reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/tezal/this_is_the_red...


I find it depressing when holier than thou hipsters pop up to whine about how depressing popular things are... which seems to occur with increasing frequency on HN nowadays.

I'm 27. I stopped getting mad at popular things around 22, when I realized popularity is just a side-effect of the target market appeal of a thing and does not in itself constitute something negative.

However, when you have a site with completely user-generated and user-upvoted content, the product is made by the people. So if the product is crap, it's actually because the people are crap. Combine this with the idea that this website was supposed to be a 'front page' for anyone on the internet to land on and peruse and I get a little sad. Not because someone might enjoy this crap - if you enjoy something, do it and be happy.

But the idea that a 10 year old kid might land on this site and dedicate a huge chunk of the rest of his or her childhood to generating new memes and learning to troll, when instead they could have been developing a skill, learning new exciting things or having fun with their friends... that's kind of depressing to me. But i'm probably just projecting.

My view is that it isn't the nature of the people on that site it's the nature of the frame of mind those people are in on that site. There's a link that was posted here a while ago which I think explains it.


"The human brain just seems to have a need for resting, for passing some time in a low-energy state. Computer role-playing games are perfect for that. When I fight fifty basically identical combats against darkspawn in Dragon Age or spend five hours finally getting my level 13 druid in World of Warcraft to level 14 or piled a hundred bricks on top of other bricks in Minecraft, I’ve done more than waste my time. I’ve given by brain rest that, for reasons I can’t begin to understand, it craved."

This rings incredibly true to me and I think many of the people who are reading this comment and who have read reddit & HN today are doing exactly this, they're putting their brain into a low(ish) energy state to give it a rest. I'm not implying that we're in that state all the time, if something of particular interest pops up we can be jolted out of it into something much more productive but for the most part people are grazing over the news and seeing what's going on in the particular corner of the internet they're interested in. All while not having to think too hard.

So what irritates me is people who look down on others because they like to watch reality tv, or read bad vampire romance novels or play video games when actually they themselves do similar but different "low energy" activities, only they've convinced themselves that their activities are better and more worthy and that everyone else is just wasting their time.

I agree with you that hypocritically judging a form of entertainment is wrong. But I don't see Reddit as just a low-energy activity to pass the time. I see it as something that shapes the minds, personalities and interactions of people in ways which can become a negative if started at a young age or continued for a long period of time. The content being less than inspiring is only a small part of the problem.

The big problem is that this incredibly popular site basically breeds a time-sink ethic, much like Facebook or MySpace, where you can waste hours and hours and have less to show for it than if you were watching porn. Heck, even video games at least develop quick hand-eye reflex and possibly strategy. It's like the TV generation, where kids sat for hours and hours on end staring at the "boob tube" turning their minds slowly to mush and influencing them in perhaps imperceptible ways. Except now they have peers to encourage their Reddit-inspired thoughts and actions.

And finally, as just a general representation of the Internet, it looks like a big pile of useless shit and maybe one or two nuggets of titillating but otherwise unenlightening news clips. Culturally bankrupt and moronic with a kind of perpetual recycling machine for lame content. If this was what I saw when I first got to the internet, i'd unplug the modem and go back to trying to find something good on TV.

I'd guess that most redditors would prefer a front page with fewer pics on it -- but pics proliferate anyway, because they're so easy to read and upvote. I don't think it's elitist to say that the situation is unfortunate.

You know what? YOU are the problem. The reddit type who feeds off drivel. A website might be popular because it is good, but do not ever conflate that something is good because it is popular.

HN still has not fallen into the pit of content for content's sake. The people here complain not because they are hipsters, but because we do not want to be fed drivel, meaningless content that rots the mind rather than feeds it.

I want to put it as harshly as possible, so I have one thing to say: Fuck off. We do not need content that lacks content here.

Oh sure, a bit like the endless "PHP is terrible", "No PHP is great" cycle of link bait that pops up every two months. Or "All developers are sexist", "No programmers aren't sexist!" which slips into the gap when we're not talking about php. And last week there was the fan favourite about "Everyone should be a programmer!", "No everyone shouldn't be a programmer!".

There's the endless cycle of "No I won't be your technical co-founder, here's why" which I have read on this site at least 10 times by different authors.

Now, I am not knocking any of that, that is the nature of user submitted content, what I find irritating however is people who believe that just because they are talking about their particular speciality (programming, marketing, startup, e.t.c) on this site it gives them the right to look down their nose at people who enjoy reddit.

Wow, you are so "The WELL" circa 1997. Communities grow (and thrive, even) as the swell of users come and, ultimately, go.

Besides, there are more than enough subreddits to subscribe to that are almost completely devoid of any "drivel" you refer to (r/science and r/TrueReddit being just two; and I contend that r/programming and r/coding are even more useful to hackers than HN).

Not to mention the massive bias.

If it's anti-rich people, pro-gay, pro-drugs, anti-corporation, anti-government, anti-religion, anti-foxnews, socialist etc etc then it'll get upvoted endlessly.

The worrying thing is that people who constantly moan about how misinformed and biased fox news viewers are, are on a website with a ridiculous bias, which also often carries untrue stories because they fit the agenda.

There's a reason why news sites are still very very popular. We need editors. If you allow people to upvote what they want, you end up with complete rubbish and endless circlejerking. The front page is often (When you remove the funny pictures) lots of "We all obviously agree with this. Who agrees with me?!!"

I find it amusing that so much anti-Fox News stuff gets posted, because they are the secondary target market, and they're just doing exactly what Fox wants them to do.

Fox trolls, Reddit gets offended, posts links. It's not like any of the Fox hosts believe what they're saying - They just say more and more absurd things until they get a reaction. It's on the same level as those "Alien woman gives birth to Werebaby" tabloids. The crazy people who watch it only feel legitimised if someone engages them in a serious argument about whether Werebabies even exist.

It's only pro-gay when it's trying to be anti-religion/anti-government. Any other time, the site is hostile to the LGBT community (and women, and people of color, and ...).

There are regular posts and plenty of white knights that defend opposing views. The problem is that most people, as I find with many anti-gay, anti-drug, pro-government people in my day-to-day life, lack the ability to articulate a mature thought supporting their view.

On the weird case that there is a good discussion, the opposing view is upvoted. There were several discussions yesterday stemming from gay marriage and there were several posts that basically said "I'm disgusted purely by the thought of homosexual acts, thus I'm opposed to gay rights" in a more eloquent tone and they were upvoted to foster the discussion.

The frontpage yesterday had a very balanced discussion regarding how MJ does not affect MS in some of the ways that people had hoped. The comments were full of discussion back and forth and first hand accounts from MS sufferers.

The subreddits are the real story. Took me a while to realize that, but now I'm hooked. I've learned so much the past few weeks from various communities.

Reddit allows subreddits a lot of freedom in creating local cultures. There is so much potential.

I may be over-excited about this because I just became the moderator of the subreddit in my niche. Previously I was building up a blog on my own, with some traffic, but little engagement or feedback.

Now www.reddit.com/r/LSAT instantly has 125 readers, and tons of engagement and trust. I'm so excited to think about what I can build it into.

The real strength of Reddit is joining the subreddits that pertain to your interests, but I agree that maybe cleaning up the 'default' subreddits is a good idea. There are plenty of people that just lurk with no account or never change the defaults.

agreed - while I occasionally enjoy /r/funny, I default to technical subreddits, and it's a very high-quality newsfeed.

An old reporter adage: news is something someone doesn't want to hear.

In that regard, I don't think reddit is really news in a hardcore sense. It has cool shit, fun articles, hilarious threads, party facts for days. But news? News, and obviously this is a big generalization, is inherently uncomfortable to read.

Reddit is a feature factory, not a newsfeed. You can learn a lot from it, but I'll politely disagree about the usage of news--not that your opinion is wrong, mine's just different.

The subreddits I read have plenty of news, about fields I am interested in - both serious technical fields and leisure related activities. Sure, r/pics is full of memes and funny stuff, but I get real information and commentary from the subreddits I follow. I certainly consider it news, even in the sense you present.

I discovered reddit 10 months ago and was amazed at the community. Then I quickly grew tired of the boring submissions and comments. Then I discovered reddit's secret - the lesser known subreddits.

The front page of my internet looks pretty interesting to me. It has a Tolkien article, a documentary about rainforest birds, some black-hole-milky-way-gamma-ray article, a usability article (Video captioning techniques and best practices), and a ton of history and grammar discussions.

Install RES and filter out links to imgur. Reddit immediately becomes about 5x better. There is still a lot of good content, it's just swamped by people using pictures of popular things to get karma.

It is only depressing if you don't know how to drop and add sub-reddits. Or maybe if you don't know math, and have no idea what the greatest common denominator is, or why people most often say lowest when they mean greatest.

The front page of reddit is a humanity GCD which means it is pretty darn low or shallow if you will. Unsubscribe from it. I also recommend unsubscribing from pics, politics, wtf, and yes even funny. Then add sub-reddits you are interested in, askscience is a good one.

Say what you will about the state of Reddit today, Alexis, Steve, and Paul Graham had some inspired insights: "We knew our business was in our user base, that that was the most important part."

Personally, I use RES and block a ton of /r/ and keywords and content.

I think the best test is to put all these blocks in place, then add a block to imgur - then you get a lot of good content.

Also, stay off the main page.

I think there's something wrong with you if you are emotionally invested enough in a website you don't even like to experience anything even close to sadness or depression.

The raw quantity of quality content on reddit is staggering. It just requires a little effort on your part to actually make an account and subscribe to good subreddits.

To me it seemed like the front page got a lot worse when the mods got rid of the reddit.com subreddit. Did anybody else observe this?



In depth discussions on the causes and effects of good and bad subreddit growth go on here. Most likely will find the same observation, with data or ideas as to why it happened.

Depressing, maybe, but it's definitely accurate being "the front page of the internet"

The worst part is, there's an easy correlation, not just between volume of users but age of users to the site, and the quality of content. The subreddits that have exploded in popularity recently, and the ones that were only more recently added to the homepage, have some of the lowest quality content ever. Even when compared to subreddits that have been around longer, or were formerly on the homepage.

You left out:

    * “Equal rights, equal lefts”
    * DAE think Black History Month is racist against whites?
    * Rage comic about “females” spurning nice-guy redditors
    * Image of fat black woman in a motorized scooter - LOLOLOLOL
    * “La-dash-a” LOLOLOLOL
    * DAE hate females for not letting us rape them?
    * etc.
    * etc.
    * etc.

Over the past few years I've visited reddit comment threads less and less precisely because of the increase in racial insensitivity. The rise of vanity accounts doesnt help either, and shows that its not just tolerated by a pretty big percent of the community, but is readily accepted and seen as entertaining.

I do find sanctuary in a few subreddits where its much rarer. But I cringe everytime i see a post title that makes an explicit mention to someones ethnicity because i know there will be misinformation given and jokes made that further validate particular kinds of racial bias.

We are doomed to reinvent Usenet until we finally break the cycle and improve upon it.

This has all happened before and will happen again.

slashdot, kuro5hin, metafilter, digg, reddit

I'm sure there are many more that fit into the timeline, but they're all pretty much the same thing - an avenue for 5% of the people to have serious discussion and 95% of the people to be idiots and attention whores.

Exactly! Reddit is Usenet, except good stuff flows to the top and spam is eliminated through community voting and moderation, which is an improvement and no small one either. Plus it's easier for the non-techies to create/customize subreddits with their own subculture, so it can evolve and keep people engaged. So far, Reddit has scaled far better than Usenet did.

If you're talking about eternal September and the decline of quality you might want to look at forums with heavy handed moderation or a paying userbase. For example the Something Awful forums have a pretty good signal to noise raito.

Metafilter et al

One day we'll discover that arguing about random crap with complete strangers via our keyboards actually isn't all that interesting, and rediscover the world outside.

no we won't, stranger!

As I understood it, it was Steve who built Reddit and Alexis is the guy who did everything else (like draw the logo or act as community manager in the early days).

I remember Alexis giving a talk on exactly this, he emphasized the importance of letting the engineers worry about building things and not all the trivial things that might get in the way of the goal.

I'm not down playing his role or achievement but we shouldn't forget Steve just because he has a smaller public profile.

Yep. Steve & I debated just about everything (even business cards) but he actually built reddit and I did everything non-technical from logo doodles to ordering pizza.

I didn't have any input in the article, but I think you'd be hard-pressed to find me writing/speaking about reddit and not also mentioning Steve in the same breath. One of my most-viewed writeups on the subject of 'why reddit won' hopefully indicates the amount of respect I have for everything Steve did: http://alexisohanian.com/how-reddit-became-reddit-the-smalle...

There'd have been no reddit without him -- and it shouldn't come as a surprise that I jumped at the chance to join hipmunk a week before launch to do my part to help with its branding & marketing.

Yeah, he gave a humorous, somewhat tongue-in-cheek speech to aspiring founders (the speech was pretty controversial on Reddit, for obvious reasons). Paraphrasing what he said since I can't remember the exact words, he basically told them to come up with an idea, get it funded, hire some rent-a-coders, and relax on the beach with your profits. His expressed, slightly sarcastic view of founding a web startup was to do what you do as the architect and let the construction crew do what they do.

He actually made many good points, if you can sift through what his many jabs at the programmer types.

That was a 100% satirical talk.

But has he made it to Bilderberg?

This may be blasphemy at HN, but I see so many similarities between digg and reddit. From the power of their service to the complete adoration to their founders.

Doesn't this fawning over Ohanian remind you of Kevin Rose?

nice article

>"I want to stay hungry," says Alexis Ohanian. "I really believe my resources are best used to help projects that make the world suck less."

I hate this kind of over-indulgence.

What "resources"? He built a social news website and had a strike of luck. It's not like the guy is an Einstein or a Tesla. Or that Reddit is something bettering society. It's a glorified internet forum.

Imagine how stupid things like this would sound in other industries:

"I really believe my resources are best used to help projects that make the world suck less" says multi-millionaire inventor of the Post-it / Jelly+Peanut butter combo / facial hair remover...


Alexis spends the majority of his resources (read: time, money, presence, influence) doing things that are not for profit. One big one was heavily campaigning online and offline against SOPA in December and January. SOPA not passing was definitely something good for society -- because it could have handed de facto censorship abilities to corporations.

As for Reddit, as a forum for internet activism like fighting SOPA I'd argue that it is bettering society in many ways. Perhaps the majority of Reddit is cat pictures, but some parts of it can be a tremendous force for activism.

"Making the world suck less" is a tongue in cheek way of saying he's not out spending his well earned millions (Reddit wasn't an overnight success; Steve and Alexis put in work to make it work) on blood diamonds and ferraris. If he wants to say that instead of "I'm spending my time on philanthropic causes" why the fuck shouldn't he?

Take a look at the previous sentence for context:

"I've tithed since the day we sold Reddit, because I believe wealth is a means to an end, and wealth has never made me happy, only comfortable. And I want to stay hungry. I really believe my resources are best used to help projects that make the world suck less."

Yes, luck has had a tremendous impact in my life. Meeting Steve, getting into YC, starting reddit w Steve, breadpig has been going really well ($200K profits donated so far), and hipmunk for that matter has been going swimmingly thus far.

I'd personally love to hear that a 23yr old inventor of post-it/jelly+peanutbutter combo/facial hair remover was using her resources (wealth) to make the world suck less. That'd be awesome. I don't see how that's any less awesome than an NFL 1st round draft pick or a trust fund kid doing the same thing. I'm a lucky person who wants to see more lucky people in the world.

I think I'd be lying to myself if I thought that his stroke of luck and success with Reddit didn't give him more resources than myself. He's had the good fortune to be given more resources than many people, I think it's great he is saying he wants to use them for good.

Not being an Einstein or a Tesla is no reason to just fold up like a lawn chair and pack yourself away. I'm using my substantially more limited resources to do the best I can, I'm glad someone with a bit more is doing the best he can.

I think by 'resources' he means his money. So he wants to invest in start ups that make the world suck less. That's how I read it anyway.

For the longest time, I thought stupidity was the gravest sin. Then I discovered these Hacker News commenters and realized that middling but self-important minds are far more vexing than dumb ones.

Snark on HN gets upvoted faster than puns on Reddit.

At every step of the ladder, the gravest sin changes.

He was talking about money.

"I want to stay hungry." -> "I'm not going to spend all this money on myself."


He might have been in part, but he was also probably referring partly to his talents as an entrepreneur and extensive contacts through YC.

WTF is up with that hate for rich people who want to do worthwhile things with their wealth?

You realize the vast majority of rich people just sit on it right? Maybe they would stop sitting on it if we were not so hard on the ones who made good use of it...

Stroke of luck can be equated to being in the right place at the right time, which is often how people rise up through the social ranks.

Plus the guy built something and developed a user base that can only be described as obsessive. That's no luck, that's good talent. What have you done today?

What - you aren't blown away by the philanthropic moves of "Bread Pig?" There's some interesting geeky stuff there, but the "make the world suck less" mission is perhaps overstating things a bit.

they are bettering society..they have a huge NSFW content.


The story I heard was that Alexis and Steve went to PG together with a somewhat different idea, and PG suggested that they make reddit instead. Steve was the coder, and Alexis was the community manager - a fairly important job when the business is to build an online community.

Yep. Just like in the story. Steve built reddit, I doodled the logo and did the non-tech stuff.

What did that entail in the early days? I only showed up a month or two before comments did and the community was already rolling at that point.



Oh, and ordering groceries and mocking up all kinds of zany product ideas.

Alexis Ohanian built AOL?

Wow my comment got deleted! Didn't know HN has censorship board.

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